The Casual Baker will, regrettably, be away on work-related travel until 14 October 2006.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Every family has its own food traditions. There are the recipes to mark holidays or other special occasions: Aunt So-and-So’s Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, Grandma’s Christmas rum cake or Mom’s double-decker chocolate on chocolate birthday cake. And then there are the recipes to mark the everyday: the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in your lunch, the brownies waiting on the counter after school or the weekly apple crisp at dinner (OK, maybe that last one was just my family).
Let me introduce you, as R. did me, to an Abbott family food institution: Magic Cookie Bar meet your blog-reading public.
The Magic Cookie Bar is a thin bar cookie composed of a graham cracker crumb base topped with sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, sweetened coconut and (sometimes) nuts (depending on the intended consumer(s)). The magic, I presume, lies in the fact that it is prepared entirely in the pan in which it is baked.
I was interested to discover that Magic Cookie Bar is on the radar of many North American families (mine excluded), sometimes disguised under such pseudonyms as Magic Bar or Hello Dolly Bar.
Magic Cookie Bar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup nuts
1 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Melt margarine in a 9”x13” baking pan. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs evenly on top. Sprinkle nuts, then chocolate chips, then coconut on top of the graham cracker crumb base. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly on top of coconut.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Remove from oven and cool in pan.
Magic Cookie Bar is quite tasty just as it is and some people might question messing with a good thing. But luckily I’m not one of them. For the chocolate and peanut fans of the world, I present you with a new twist on an old favourite.
Magic Cookie Bar à la Casual Baker
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup Oreo cookie crumbs
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup salted peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons all-natural peanut butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs and Oreo cookie crumbs. Press mixture into a 9” square pan (I used glass).
In another bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter. You may need to microwave the peanut butter slightly if it is too hard to stir. Pour this mixture over the crumb base.
Sprinkle chocolate chips, peanuts and coconut on top and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the coconut browns. You may want to broil the square at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes at the end to ensure even browning on top. Remove from oven and cool in pan.
Notes: In the future, I would either add another tablespoon of peanut butter to the sweetened condensed milk or use half semi-sweet chocolate chips and half peanut butter chips to increase the peanut factor in this recipe.
I used a square baking pan to create a thicker bar but, in the process, may have sacrificed the square’s stability (especially when it’s fresh from the oven). I highly recommend waiting until it has cooled completely before attempting any cutting.
Labels: Bars and squares
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
As I previously mentioned, I was in Kingston just over a week ago for Queen's homecoming weekend. It's an interesting experience to return to a place you used to live, but under different circumstances. To be clear, when I lived in Kingston between 1997 and 2001, I was a 17-21 year old student with a flexible schedule but limited disposable income; whereas now, I'm a 26-going-on 27 year old economist with an office job...and limited disposable income. Right then.
One thing that has definitely changed is my appreciation of good food. Back in my undergrad days, I was completely satisfied with the classic student staples: chicken club pitas from the Pita Pit, slices from Pizza Pizza, late-night poutine from Bubba's, steak and cheese subs from Subway and Crispy Crunch Skor blizzards from Dairy Queen (you really ought to try that combo if you haven't before), supplemented with my produce-free, homemade fare including hot dogs, pasta and sauce, Kraft Dinner, tomato soup, frozen chicken strips and spicy Shin Ramyun noodles.
Returning to Kingston now, I realize all the missed food opportunities. That's not to say that I don't re-visit old haunts; nowadays I just supplement them with new favourites.
Pan Chancho Bakery & Café: Pan Chancho is the bakery for Kingston's upscale Chez Piggy restaurant, but has become a worthwhile visit in its own right. This past trip, we picked up a loaf of rosemary olive sourdough, a savoury herb brioche and a chocolate chip cookie (and eyed pretty much everything else in the bakery, not to mention the brunch menu for the cafe, which I haven't had the good fortune of visiting).
The Sleepless Goat: Can you say granola, anyone? The Goat, as it is affectionately referred to by the regulars, is the kind of place with local artwork on the walls, staff in bandanas and a sign by the napkins pleading with you to spare a tree. And I love every bit of it. R. and I spent many a night at The Goat with our favorite desserts: his, a mocha cheesecake, and mine, K2. K2 is perfection in a slice, with its chocolate crumb base, topped with a layer of fudgy ganache, followed by a thick layer of light chocolate mousse, all capped under a shell of – what else – chocolate. Other highlights include the Sticky Buns, Brownies and the entire Brunch menu.
Stooley’s Café: This selection may solicit a few groans among readers who are familiar with Kingston and, more specifically, the student ghetto. Stooley's is a greasy spoon of sorts that was virtually kiddie corner to where I lived during my last 3 years of school. While the Western Burger – a burger with cheese and deep-fried onion rings – is killer, I frequently went for the classic comfort food: a tomato grilled cheese (prepared with processed cheese slices no less) cut on the diagonal and served with a side of fries. Not just any fries, mind you. Stooley's, along with The Copper Penny, has the distinction of seasoning their thick rippled fries with enough dried soup mix to satisfy your recommended sodium intake for about a week. Salty.
Le Chien Noir Bistro: A first-time visit to Le Chien Noir last weekend left a fantastic taste in my mouth. While our brie and beet appetizer got us off to a somewhat rocky start, the crusty bread and our entrées (R.’s duck and my chicken and grilled eggplant pasta) more than made up for it. Moreover, bites of 3 different dessert options – a lemon tart, crème brûlée and double chocolate cake – ordered by others at the table left me wishing I'd saved room for my own.
Labels: Away from the kitchen
Friday, September 22, 2006
This is it, my first-ever contribution to Sugar High Friday (SHF), the ultimate blogging event for dessert lovers (hosted this month by A Veggie Venture).
First, the bad news.
I’m not going to lie to you. The Two-Bite Sticky Rice Cakes* aren’t pretty. After countless photos of various poses from a variety of angles in different lights, this was the best I could do.
Now for the good news.
They're plenty edible. These rice cakes are not the dry rounds of Styrofoam that dieters quaffed in the ‘80s in an (often) unsuccessful bid to lose weight. Quite the contrary, in fact. The Two-Bite Sticky Rice Cake is a moist morsel in a crispy exterior, with a texture not unlike that of a jujube: chewy, but dense enough to see your bite marks.
I first tasted sticky rice cake (also called glutinous rice cake, and a variety of other terms in various languages I’m sure) in university when one of my housemates, E., baked up a batch. My initial skepticism (”That batter doesn’t look like it’s going to turn into any kind of cake I’ve ever seen”) was confirmed when the first squares were cut (“See, that definitely isn’t cake”). But the first bite brought me around, as I’m sure it will you.
In honour of the Surprise Inside theme of SHF23, I used E.’s sticky rice cake recipe but with a few adjustments. First, I used mini muffin tins rather than an 8” square pan. Second (and more importantly), I added the surprise(s).
There are two variations of the cake: one filled with sweet red bean paste and topped with sesame seeds; the other – perhaps more appealing to North American tastes – filled with semi-sweet chocolate and topped with sweetened coconut. (In theory, at least. I surprised myself when I bit into a coconut-topped cake and discovered sweet bean paste inside. Who’s in charge of quality control here?)
Two-Bite Sticky Rice Cakes
1/2 bag (200 g) glutinous rice flour (available at Asian grocers)
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup oil (I used canola, but any light tasting oil will do)
sweet red bean paste (available at Asian grocers)
sweetened coconut flakes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease muffin tin, even if it's non-stick.
In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs using an electric mixer. Add the sugar and oil and beat lightly again. In a small bowl, whisk together the rice flour and baking powder. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk to the eggs/sugar/oil mixture, mixing between each addition and ending with dry ingredients.
Pour a small amount of batter into the bottom of each muffin cup until they are about 1/4 full. Bake for 5 minutes or until the batter just begins to set. Remove from oven and place a small amount of sweet red bean paste or melted semi-sweet chocolate in the middle of each cup on top of the batter. Pour more batter on top of the filling until you reach the top of the muffin cup. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or coconut flakes.
Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until tops are golden. Let cooked cakes rest in the pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. I cooled the cakes upside down to help them maintain their shape.
Yields about 30 mini cakes.
*The name was inspired by the ubiquitous Two-Bite Brownies that seem to have found their way into every major Canadian grocery store over the last few years. A bit of a misnomer I fear, since it’s clearly possible to consume a Two-Bite Sticky Rice Cake in one bite. But I advocate the two-bite approach for those who want to really appreciate the surprise inside.
Labels: Cakes and cupcakes
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
When I think shortbread, I think Christmas. Every year, my maternal grandmother – or Gran, as we called her – would transform brick after brick of butter into crispy shortbread moons, stars and trees or, alternatively, crinkle-edged rounds with slivers of green and red glazed cherries pressed gently into their tops.
Each tin of shortbread was given with an admonishment to the recipient to store and serve the shortbread separately from other Christmas goodies in order to keep it crunchy, as well as an assurance that it would keep forever. (The latter was really put to the test when, one year, my mom came across a few pieces tucked away from the Christmas past. Suffice to say, while the shortbread does keep a long time, forever might be a stretch.)
Being mid-late September as it is, I realize that Christmas is hardly just around the corner. But, after tasting an amazing piece of savoury cheddar shortbread from Thyme & Again a few weeks back, I’ve had shortbread on the brain. So, when I came across a post on ToastPoint for Rosemary Ginger Shortbread with Chocolate Ganache, I knew I’d found my next baking project.
In short, I’m hooked. Much to my initial disbelief, ginger and rosemary make fantastic partners in crime, especially when mixed with lots of butter and sugar and coated in pucker-inducing chocolate.
Next time, I’ll chop the ginger a bit more coarsely and either bake the shortbread a bit longer or try a crunchier recipe. I think a good snap to the cookie would really seal the deal. I’m also envisioning other sweet-savoury shortbread possibilities (e.g., lemon and thyme, toasted coconut and curry). Mmmm.
Monday, September 18, 2006
When I. sent out the word that he was throwing M. a surprise party to celebrate her turning 27, I was quick to volunteer my baking services.
“Based on the final guest count, I think we’ll need about 3 dozen,” he told me. Three dozen birthday cupcakes, that is. But what flavour? After much deliberation and some consultation, I finally settled on three kinds and carefully tallied the ingredients I’d need on a grocery list. (Of course, I promptly changed my mind again in the grocery store and ended up crossing my fingers and going by memory anyways.)
Having previously made some chocolate on chocolate cupcakes for M., which she enjoyed, and recognizing that chocolate is always a crowd-pleaser, the Double Fudge Chocolate Cupcake was a no-brainer. A light but fudgy chocolate cupcake (the product of a combination of melted unsweetened chocolate and cocoa) with a rich substantial chocolate frosting. The crowd favourite once again if the cupcake wrappers were any indication.
Next up was a Vanilla Cupcake with Orange Coconut Frosting. A dense, but otherwise innocuous, vanilla cupcake made interesting with a zesty orange frosting and dipped in coconut for good looks. While this was my personal favourite, it seemed to be the least popular with the group.
The third and final choice (not pictured) was a Pumpkin Ginger Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting. A welcome-to-fall cupcake that tastes a lot like pumpkin loaf, but much lighter and with the added bonus of crystallized ginger bits and whipped cream cheese goodness. A bit of a risky choice, perhaps, but it seemed to go over well. What can I say, M’s friends have good taste!
Source: Most of my cupcake recipes come from a great little book entitled Cupcakes by Elinor Klivans, which was a wedding shower gift from a good friend. In addition to providing basic recipes for chocolate and yellow cupcakes and simple buttercream icings, the book also includes more advanced recipes for batters, fillings and frostings with lots of mouth-watering pictures. This time, however, I used a chocolate cupcake and frosting recipe from Bonnie Stern’s Essentials of Home Cooking. For the future, I think the ultimate combination would be Bonnie Stern’s chocolate cupcake recipe with Elinor Klivan’s chocolate buttercream frosting, which is light and fluffy and heart attack-inducing all at the same time.
I also recently came across a fantastic blog called Cupcake Bakeshop that features an unbelievable range of cupcake recipes that I can’t wait to try.
Labels: Cakes and cupcakes
Friday, September 15, 2006
I used to be not particularly picky about the state of my bananas, but over time I’ve become quite selective. At the grocery store, I seek out the greenest bunch in the pile, careful to check that they are unbruised. (I’ll manage to inflict plenty of damage on my walk to work without any extra help from the Real Canadian Superstore, thank you very much.) From there, I have a 1-day wait followed by about 2 – maybe 3 – good banana eating days, after which point R. (perhaps unwittingly?) becomes the sole banana eater in the household.
The problem is this. Our apartment seems to offer the precise climatic conditions required to ripen produce almost instantaneously. If I had the time and patience, I’m confident that I could watch bananas ripen on the counter before my eyes. (Much like one of those time-lapse sequences in movies used to indicate passage of time, where they show the sun rising and setting, clouds streaming by overhead and/or plants growing and blossoming and then wilting and dying. But I digress.)
A few days before heading to the Toronto International Film Festival this past weekend, I did the obligatory scan of the kitchen for anything perishable/conducive to a fruit fly infestation in our absence. There, lurking in the corner, were 3 bananas well past their prime (even for normal banana eaters). What to do? While I can’t bring myself to suffer through the mushiness and gag-inducing flavour of over-ripe (or even ripe, really) bananas, add some flour, sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla and suddenly it’s a whole new ball game.
A quick flip through my mental recipe book recalled a recent blog posting by D. on the Margoville Gazette. In her pre-baby, work-free state, she recently embarked on a banana bread-making bananza (pun most certainly intended), baking 4 different types of banana bread. The recipe that caught my eye was for Coconut Banana Bread with Lime Glaze.
I didn’t have any dark rum or apple juice available, so I used milk instead and added some lime zest into the batter for some extra flavour. Despite the substitution, the loaf was tasty and a nice change of pace from my usual banana bread with chocolate chips. Definitely one for the recipe file.
Source: Cooking Light magazine via D.
Note: Good thing D. got all of that banana bread making out of the way now that Margo has arrived!
Labels: Muffins and quick breads
Saturday, September 09, 2006
If my high school yearbook had done this sort of thing, I probably would have been Voted Most Likely to Never Leave Home. It’s quite a mystery then how, nine years ago, I ended up halfway across the country on the steps of Chown Hall residence at Queen’s University. Having never visited the city or campus and being the only one from my British Columbia high school graduating class of 800+ there, it was a character-building leap of faith to say the least.
As gregarious people who love nothing more than chatting up friends or strangers, my parents are well-suited to staying at bed and breakfasts when they travel. Always one to plan ahead, my mom researched B&Bs in Kingston and booked us rooms at Ann’s B&B (sight unseen) for our inaugural trip/my move in late August 1997. We arrived to find a gracious host, her sole companion a large saliva-producing beast with a penchant for hanging around the breakfast table. Don’t get me wrong: I like dogs and I like food, just not together (a conviction shared by mom and less so by W., I believe). It wasn’t clear to me how this was going to work out.
But that Ann, she was crafty. Sensing our uncertainty and speculating that the way to our hearts was through our stomachs, she pulled out all the stops in a (successful) bid to win us over. We arose the next morning to the scent of fresh Peach Muffins. One bite of that fluffy white goodness with juicy chunks of peach and we barely noticed the dog drool on our freshly ironed khakis.
Four years later, I graduated with shorter hair, wider hips, sleep deprivation, new friends, a future husband and funny ideas in my head. Not to mention a great recipe for peach muffins.
Exactly one week from now, I will be making the trek from Ottawa to Kingston, Ontario for Queen’s University Homecoming Weekend and my 5-year reunion. What better way to commemorate the occasion than with a batch of Ann’s peach muffins?
Back to school, indeed.
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 - 2 1/2 cups fresh peaches, coarsely chopped
1/8 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup sugar (I used brown instead of white)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease muffin tin or mould. (I used a silicone muffin mould and still lightly greased it with butter.)
In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Add vanilla and beat to blend. In a small bowl, mix baking powder, salt and flour.
Fold about half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Mix using a spoon or spatula, then add half of the buttermilk. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk. Stir just until blended; do not overmix. Add the peaches to the batter and mix gently.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tin or mould and sprinkle with the topping (optional). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. The muffins will not necessarily be golden on top.
Yields 12 small muffins or 9 large muffins.
Labels: Muffins and quick breads
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Browsing through the produce stalls of Ottawa’s Byward Market this past weekend, I happened upon a curious thing. Nestled between the stout egg-shaped Asian eggplants squatting in their baskets (one of which I bought) and the baby carrots standing at attention on their shelf, there sat the beans, cock-eyed and carefree. Not just any beans, mind you. These were extraordinary maroon and cream swirled Romano Beans (actually Cranberry Beans, I later discovered).
I hummed. I hawed. What do I know about Romano Beans? What could I possibly do with them? Would they end up a sorry, forgotten mess in the bottom of the crisper at the end of the week? I considered the 40-minute walk home ahead and the bags filled with peaches, strawberries and blueberries, among other items, already weighing down my arms. I contemplated the clouds and the risk of rain, my lack of umbrella and the fact that I’d just used my last bus ticket.
And then I bought them anyways.
At $2 a pop, it was a small price to pay for a culinary adventure, I reasoned.
Just the other night, we shelled our cranberry marvels to reveal gorgeous maroon and cream speckled beans with the occasional solid cream or maroon aberration. Almost too good to eat, but not quite. (Note: Enjoy the colour while it lasts. The boiling water sucks the fun right out, leaving them a dull shade of tan.)
After a leisurely 20-minute dip in a boiling bath, the beans acquired a creamy texture and rich flavour (like mashed potatoes or the yolk of a hardboiled egg, depending on who you ask in this household). Tossed with fresh tomatoes, chopped basil, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic that your friends bought you at the Garlic Festival that you mean to go to every year and somehow always manage to miss, the beans made a surprisingly tasty topping for our spaghetti. Add a slice of your favourite sourdough bread spread with salted butter and you’re really set.
And you thought I only made dessert.
Labels: Savoury bites
Monday, September 04, 2006
Until I happened upon an archived post on Chocolate & Zucchini, I had never heard of Panna Cotta. Panna Cotta, Italian for cooked cream, is a lightly sweetened cream custard thickened with gelatin (or something of the sort) and frequently served unmoulded and topped with a fruit coulis. I’m not certain if what happened next is the product of an overactive imagination or heightened awareness, but – suddenly – Panna Cotta was everywhere: peeking out from the covers of magazines at the grocery store checkout, splashed across the pages of all the dessert cookbooks, and even creeping onto the menus of several restaurants I encountered.
As someone who always aims/desires to be ahead of the curve on food-related trends, I found this whole Panna Cotta business to be a bit demoralizing. But, bearing in mind the old adage better late than never (and tempering it with the better safe than sorry maxim), I set to work taking all possible precautions to make my first foray into the world of Panna Cotta a success or, at worst, a private failure.
First, I decided on plain vanilla custard. Second, I compared several recipes and chose a version with the fewest and simplest ingredients (the Chocolate & Zucchini version mentioned above). Third, I limited the tasters to two: R. and me. And finally, having only read about Panna Cotta and never actually tasted it, I vowed to preserve my virgin taste buds (an ignorance is bliss approach, if you will). Buoyed by the successful setting of the custard this afternoon, I revised my initial plans for a simple berry coulis and upped the anti by preparing a marginally more adventurous strawberry balsamic sauce instead.
Save for some difficulty with the unmoulding, the results were very satisfying: a nice light custard that held its shape but wasn’t overly gelatinous against the tang of balsamic-infused strawberries.
Bolstered by this first attempt, I am envisioning some interesting possibilities for the future. So, if you’re not enthused about Citrus Panna Cotta drizzled with a light ginger or semi-sweet chocolate sauce, I’d advise you to decline our next dinner invitation.
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup milk
1/8 cup sugar
1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine the whipping cream, milk and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over low to medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture reaches a simmer, stirring occasionally. Do not boil.
While the cream mixture is heating, sprinkle the powdered gelatin onto 1 1/2 tablespoons of cool water in a small bowl. Let the gelatin activate (about 5 minutes).
Meanwhile, remove the cream mixture from the stove. Add the activated gelatin and blend with a whisk. Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes before pouring into 2 ramequins or small glass containers. Let the custard set in the fridge until firm.
Note: I chilled the ramequins in the fridge before filling them with the custard, which was supposed to help with the unmoulding process later on. I’m not sure how well it worked though, so any tricks or tips would be welcome!
Balsamic Strawberry Sauce:
1/2-2/3 cup fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon white sugar
Wash, de-stem and quarter the strawberries. In a small saucepan, mix the strawberries, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar and let sit for 30 minutes.
Add the white sugar and heat the mixture just until the sugars have dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. (You could also puree the mixture at this point, if desired.)
When ready to serve, unmould (or don’t) the custard onto a plate and drizzle the balsamic strawberry sauce on top.
Friday, September 01, 2006
The Wild Oat is a bakery/store/café in the Glebe area of Ottawa that caters to the granola types with its vegetarian menu items and liberal (sometimes excessive) use of grains and seeds. While I’m not vegetarian, far from hippy and have been known to use plastic bags at the grocery store (sue me), I still appreciate what The Wild Oat has to offer from time to time.
Of particular interest to me is the Berry Oat Bar which, after careful examination and much taste-testing, I have come to conclude consists of a fairly thick cranberry and blueberry filling sandwiched between two layers of oat crumbs. A perfect blend of sweet and tart.
I have the good fortune of having Fridays off of work during the summer, tomorrow being my last. A favourite summer Friday routine of mine involves a leisurely walk to The Wild Oat, where I snag a Berry Oat Bar to go, before trundling on down Bank Street to the Starbucks for a drink and a seat. An obscene amount of pocket change later, I’m happily settled in a cushy armchair by the window, snacking and reading my latest book club pick or a suitably star-studded magazine (Vanity Fair, anyone?).
On one such occasion in recent history, after silently grumbling to myself about the cost of this ritual, it donned on me: I could make this!
So, just in time for the last summer Friday, here is my first attempt at replicating the Berry Oat Bar (with an almond twist). While the end product was reasonably tasty, it was a bit more berry crisp than berry bar (although much more interested in being a bar after it was cooled and refrigerated).
Berry Bar as Crisp
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground almond
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease an 8” square pan.
In a medium bowl, mix together oats, flour, ground almond, brown sugar and baking soda. Cut chilled butter into cubes and add it to the dry ingredients. Rub the mixture between your fingertips until it resembles coarse crumbs. Lightly press half of the mixture into the bottom of the greased pan.
~ 2 cups berries (I used blueberries with a handful of raspberries this time)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
In a small saucepan, dissolve the cornstarch in 1 tablespoon of water. Add the remaining water and sugar, and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the cloudy mixture begins to thicken and turn transparent.
At this point, add the berries, reduce heat slightly, and stir for approximately 3 minutes until the sauce has completely thickened. Do not heat until the berries burst (if you are using blueberries or cranberries, for example). Remove from heat.
Pour the berry filling over the crumbs. Sprinkle the remaining half of the crumbs on top and bake for 25-30 minutes. The berry filling should bubble up the sides of the pan slightly, but the crumbs on top should not be dry.
Remove from oven and either eat immediately with ice cream as a crisp or chill and eat later as a bar.
Casual Baker Notes for Next Time:
More dry ingredients – ~1/4 cup of oats or flour – in the crumb mixture.
A jolt of lemon (zest and juice) to the berry filling to give it some zing.
Labels: Bars and squares